Are you switched on to children’s online habits?

Parents must be vigilant
Parents must be vigilant
Mo Farrah after missing out on a gold medal
				 Picture: Adam Davy

VERITY LUSH: Leave me to browse the make-up counter in peace

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When I was at school, communicating with my friends was straightforward.

We spoke to each other at school and occasionally called each other in the evenings, on our landline and only if we needed to check our answers to the maths homework.

If we weren’t able to get in touch with each other we shrugged our shoulders and got back to watching Multi-coloured Swapshop or staring at our Duran Duran posters.

If we wanted to get in touch with our idols we would write them a letter via Blue Peter or Jim’ll Fix It.

I have to admit to writing to Prince Charles to congratulate him on his engagement to Lady Diana. He very kindly wrote back to me to thank me. Or rather, his under-under-under-secretary did. But I was thrilled with receiving a letter written on royal headed paper.

In fact, I was overjoyed to receive a letter at all, since any missives I did receive were most likely to be from a rather odd German penfriend who had a tendency to send me slightly dodgy teenage magazines with pictures of naked Germans in the shower, along with all the latest pop news.

Of course, children nowadays have many means of communication.

They can use the ancient art of speech or, and this is usually preferable, they can pull out their mobile phones and text/call/tweet/Facebook their friends.

In many ways this is progress. If her bus is late, my daughter can let me know, for example.

But there is certainly a dark side to it. Having a mobile phone helps you keep in touch with your loved ones, but it also gives you access to all sorts of inappropriate material.

One of my children was traumatised at school when another pupil showed him a pornographic video on his phone. Many questions arose from this – why did the child in question have a phone at school and why was he accessing such things? The school was informed and action was taken.

It is sometimes difficult for us parents to understand the magnitude of this progress in technology.

Facebook is a particularly good example. I perceive any type of social networking not as a way of simply sharing things with friends, but basically broadcasting to the world. Anything that is put on Facebook can be made available to every individual on this planet. If you see it that way then it can never get you into trouble. Don’t post anything defamatory or inappropriate and it can never backfire at you.

But sadly this message is not getting through to our children. The other day I came across a page on Facebook that appeared to have been set up by 14-year-old girls.

The inappropriate content and information was available for all to see. And it was, I am sure, illegal. If any of their parents had seen the content I am sure that there would have been trouble afoot.

I implore parents to make sure that they are aware of their children’s actions on social networking sites.

We have to be much more vigilant than our mothers had to be. If my mother could confiscate a risqué German magazine, then we should keep an eye on our children’s online activities.